Monday, 3 April 2017

Im throwing a 'because I've been slack' sale over at My TPT store. I'll be back soon to post some updates and hopefully a few freebies!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Easter.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Five for... the weekend!


Week One done!  I survived!

I'm linking up with Kacey over at Doodle Bugs Teaching this week.
There are going to be a few promos in this post.
Stuff that has been instrumental in helping me to survive the first week of school over the past few years.

Not because I'm trying to capitalise (all my TPT payouts go directly to charity), but because I've had a difficult week and there's probably others out there who have too. And I want to help you with a few things that have made my life easier.

1. Fresh Starts.
It's been so lovely catching up with my class from last year as I bump into them all through the school with their new uniforms. They look so grown up! All of them seem to be really enjoying Year 1, but they still want to give me a hug. Awww.

2. Teaching routines and transitions like crazy.
I love my class this year. They are so full of life and personality. Some big personalities. Energetic and lively personalities. And many, many, 'can talk under wet cement' personalities. After getting through this week I've realised all over again just how important teaching routines are, and how valuable they are going to be for my own sanity this year.  I'm completely focussed on nailing our routines and transitions into the framework of classroom life and nothing else right now. Forget content for a week or two. For me, this is critical. You can check out my list of routines I teach right here. I had to make a list to keep track of them all!

Start of Year Routines

3. A clear behaviour management plan!
I've also realised yet again that my behaviour management is key right from the first hour. The first HOUR! It sets the tone for the whole year! This book by Michael Linsen is amazing. I bought it a few years ago and re read it every year right before school starts. It's hugely practical and insanely encouraging. It's an easy read and such a helpful resource. I think EVERY teacher should have a copy of this book! Having my plan in place from the very beginning helped me get through the week heaps easier than if I hadn't set it up with the kiddos yet.  They are still learning the ropes, but there were no surprises when consequences came out. No confusion. They knew what to do and we were able to get on with the show.

4. Good support!
This week has been more difficult than the usual first week of school. My usual teacher aide comes back next week, which meant I had other people in... And often didn't arrive until after the day had started so I had no opportunity to let them know what was going on, one of them is brand new and has no idea what we were doing or where anything is. They did a great job, but it just isn't the same. I am so glad my usual teacher aide will be back on Monday. I am so grateful for her loyalty. And her ability to read my mind. I also really appreciate her ninja cleaning skills. I spent over an hour scrubbing tables one afternoon this week.

5. An organisational system that works!
Being organised helps heaps. Planning my time well is critical. Especially now that I'm working a 45 hour week instead of 60+.  I couldn't have survived this week without my organiser. It helped me make sure I had everything organised at the right time, kept everything organised, kept on top of things that popped up (including that parent who panicked because they discovered their child had a time out, the aforementioned time-sucking table scrubbing ordeal,  and my husband electrocuting himself mid week- he's fine though!), and all without stressing out.

Can you say lifesaver?!?!

Take Control Teacher Organiser Bold Bubbles

I was so exhausted on Tuesday that I slept for 14 hours! And I slept well because I had the confidence of knowing everything was taken care of or had been allocated a time to be taken care of all in advance of when it was needed.

It's going to be an exhausting year, but I also know it's going to be one of those amazingly joyful years. I've had my class for the equivalent of 2 full school days (broken up with half days and half classes) and I adore them already.

They are also super knowledgeable about super heroes.
It's going to be a good year.

Monday, 2 January 2017

It's a new day and everything's broken!

Well, happy new year!

It's been a big day already.

I had big plans for today. Plenty of laminating. My teacher aide likely won't be at school during that critical week before school starts. She normally does a lot of the setting up and preparation stuff because I tend to be booked out with meetings and PD all week with hour blocks left free here and there. So I'm trying to do as much as I can before I go back.

Had my laminating all prepared and ready to go.... And my laminator is dead. I had to yank one of the pieces out... It was rolled up like a poster. Hubby pulled it apart but that machine is dead. RIP.

Oh well. I'll get some printing done and laminate at school in a week or so. Guess not. Printer is printing everything twice on each page, between 1-5 mm away from the original spot so everything looks fuzzy or blurry. I only just got it back from being repaired last week for the same problem.

I received a recall notice for my car's indicator switch. What a bother!

My shoe strap came off my shoe. First world problem right there. Time to stop whining about everything I touch breaking.

I decided to do a superhero theme for my class this year. I've got what appears to be an active little bunch of learners coming in. I know the ones that went to our kindy (preschool in the US? Whatever informal facility that comes before your kinder anyway) played with hero capes often. I think it might just be the perfect vehicle to transition them into formal schooling, learning our rules and values, and also growth mindset!

I've never done a proper theme before (my displays are normally what we're learning and student work. No room for fancy/cool/nice looking theme displays- small space) and I'm a little concerned I may over do the coordinating colour scheme.

Also, I'm supposed to be getting a new pin board type thingy installed over the holidays.... But I have no idea which wall or how big it is, so that may change things too.

I've also decided to move my furniture layout for the first time in three years. I'm not overly excited about this. I managed to have a really open room despite it being smaller than I would like. But I have this sinking feeling that the old layout just won't work for these kids.

Plus I want a dedicated reading space again. I had to swap that and home corner out in a sacrificial play to get the floor space I wrangled. Still working on a way to develop a home corner back into the mix. Our class sizes are a little bigger now than they were back when I last had one, so it may be a squeeze.... And I don't like being squished.

I can't even use an online floor planner as I don't know the room dimensions, there are small sections of wall in an awkward place or two, and part of the floor is angled so furniture can't go there. My furniture is largely mismatched and different sizes. Sometimes we swap it around as well so I may not have the exact ones I had last year. It's tricky to plan!

My goal for the beginning of this year is to really look at storage afresh. As almost every teacher in the world understands, we don't have enough storage space! What that led to was designated cupboards for different things staff throughout the two rooms. Which means none of the art or craft supplies are in my room. All of the reading schemes, maths and literacy resources are in my room. Fine motor, blocks and construction toys are spread haphazardly been both. The puzzles are all next door.

While we all generally know where everything is, we discovered it limits our spontaneity and our ability to follow the children's lead because we cant leave the room to access the resources we need right that very moment. I'm not sure we can completely fix that, but I'm sure there can be improvements made somehow.

So much to do! And as much as I want to do it all RIGHT now.... I can't do any of it!

Reading my million books I got for Christmas it is! 😂

Friday, 23 December 2016

Even more excitement this week!

Hi again!

I might be on holidays, but I haven't quite been on holidays this week, if you know what I mean.

My first super exciting news to share is that I was a guest blogger this week for Susan over at The ESL Connection. You can check out my post on education in Australia here! I am so very super excited because this was my first ever guest blog post!

It was also really cool because I learnt heaps while revising the post. There were heaps of times I looked at something Susan had asked and I was like, oh really? Other places don't know what that is or do that? It just goes to show how different our collective worlds can really be, even when we all have the same goal!

I have also just updated my Teacher Control Organisers for the 2017-2018 year!

   Take Control Teacher Organiser Bold Bubbles                                  

I must be really inefficient at this stuff, because it took me all day to update 6 calendars?  Anyhow, I am really happy with how they look, and I have about 10 more background designs that I just didn't get around to making last year that I'm thinking about working on after Christmas. Maybe.  

The boys have been mountain bike crazy the past few weeks, and go with their Dad nearly every day. We have the World Cup Trail just down the road from our house, so they disappear up there an awful lot. In this hideous weather. You know it's humid when even your earlobes get sweaty. Not mine. My sons. I have never seen anyone with sweaty earlobes before, but there is a first time for every thing.

I kinda get stuck between really wanting to do stuff with my kids, getting school stuff done, and playing with all the genius ideas I get that never seem to really work out, and Disney research at the moment. 366 days and the kids are counting. Alright, I might have a Disney countdown app on my phone that enables them. I AM excited. It's not every day you get to go to Disney World!

Well I guess it is if you work there. But for us, it's a once in a lifetime, not likely to ever be possible again, family holiday with an 18 month run up momentum. This week I've been researching tipping culture in the US. I have come up with this much:

  • It is extremely complex. The socially excepted rules are pretty simple when it comes to the amount. It's all the what ifs that make it tricky
  • It's in unexpected places. Like public bathrooms!?
  • Australian's are notoriously awful at it.

Silver and Gold Coins

Well, I don't want to live up to THAT expectation! I would like to do this well, hence the research. I may be a bit defensive,  but please understand, we just don't DO it here, and I have yet to find someone who can coherently explain it! Not anywhere! 

In a lot of jobs here you are actually not allowed to accept tips. In one job I had, if someone insisted on leaving one, it just went into the till. On a separate but slightly related note, I read a story this week that a local council in another state in Australia had BANNED kids and parents from giving teachers 'substantial' gifts such as wine and gift cards. 'Token' gestures such as a box of chocolates were acceptable. This is supposed to ensure anti-corruption laws are followed!?  You see?  We have no chance of really understanding this tipping culture properly when we live in an environment such as this.

I have read some people saying that the Japanese tourists often don't tip, and it's not so much okay but it's accepted, only because it's a cultural thing as they don't do it there. We don't do it here either... why is it less okay for us to mess it up? I don't really follow that logic, but it seems a pretty prevalent line of thought out there in google world. 

So,...... I'm going to lay out my understanding and really, really hope that someone will correct anything wrong! I'm sure there's stuff I have completely muddled up. I'm a bit terrified concerned about accidentally ripping someone off.
Like I said, I want to do this well.  

Anything less than a 15% tip is rude or for extremely bad service. 
I might feel guilty leaving less than 15% even if the service was really bad. Is it counterproductive to tip well even when the service was appalling?
But then you pay tax on your meal? So are you expected to tip based on the total of the bill or the before-tax amount? Does it matter?

I tip cab drivers but not the starbucks staff?

You pay tax on stuff you buy anywhere, but it's not listed on the price tag? And depending on what it is, there are different tax percentages? Is it written down anywhere so you know how much your actually paying for stuff? Do you then tip the sales staff? Again, is it before or after the taxes?

Apparently, you don't tip for tickets? So what if I buy a dinner that comes with a ticket for something? Do I just tip on the food part or the total? 

What about buffets? 

What if I run out of small change and only have high denominations left? 

I kinda feel like I'm going to end up standing on a corner handing out money to whoever walks past because I can't figure out who I should tip and who I shouldn't. After all, these are all people who are doing their jobs. Should I ask them? Seems rude. 

I guess that's why we are thought to be bad at this. It's hard to understand. I can completely understand people panicking and just bolting for the door. 

Yes, I know that these people get paid a ridiculous $2 an hour or something like that. I get that they NEED it. I have no idea how to identify who these people are. I also get that people from outside the culture could be baffled by paying someone to do their job. After all, that's what their boss is supposed to do.

My big question is this: 
Why DON'T their bosses pay them a proper income? Surely a small price increase on products and services to meet the cost wouldn't put people off buying from them if it meant that the staff were paid and the need to tip disappeared?  This is what I really don't get. 

I really want to though. As I said. I want to do it well. 
I don't want to add to the idea that Aussie's are rude, arrogant and culturally insensitive. I'm not trying to be difficult and I hope no one is offended by anything I've said. Like I said before, I'm making a huge effort to understand what is not only expected, but why and how it all works.

Well that turned into a bit of a desperate rant/plea for help. 

3 more days til Christmas! I am so very excited. My little niece is 3 weeks old. I love having hugs with her. Even though she immediately sleeps every time I touch her. She's precious. We will have the entire family together for her first Christmas, with my boys and my other niece. Such a special time.

I hope everyone has a safe Christmas and a blessed New Year. May we always remember that Jesus is the reason, but without the promise of redemption brought through Easter, it would be just another birthday celebration. Christmas is a gift of hope for the future.

And please help solve my tipping dilemmas! I have NO idea what I'm doing!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Another farewell

So it's all over. Finished once again.
My kids have grown up, no longer need me and have decided to leave me.
After 6 years, it hasn't gotten any easier.

I am, of course, talking about other people's kids, not my own. I should probably ask permission from their parents before I start referring to them as mine... or at least give a blanket disclaimer at our parent night at the start of the year.
 "I know they're yours, but for the next 10 months they're mine too.
 I hope you're a good sharer!"

That would be kinda funny actually.

But..... my class. They were so wonderful. They still are. They just aren't mine anymore.

I tried to talk them into staying with me for another year, but they wouldn't have it for a moment. Except that one sweet boy. Who has actually finished his second year with me and was angling for a third. Bless that kid! The thing is, they are sooo ready for next year. And I am so very, very proud of them.

We (myself and my other grade level teacher) undertook a really cool action research project with one of our universities. The people running the project report to the government, so the information we were providing is really important for the future of the early years in our country. It was all about putting balance back into the classroom, letting teachers teach in the way they think best, and letting the kids move and play and talk to learn. Not just that awful 'I know everything, you sit and listen, then we'll go to our allocated desks and you can do a worksheet to show me how well you listened.'  Unfortunately, that has been happening a bit in some schools, and the teachers HATE it!

It was about following their lead (our job was to make sure we covered curriculum while doing that), and letting them have some freedom to make choices about what and how they learnt the content. Not free-range kids, but they did get to make some decisions about the direction their learning took. They loved it. They OWNED it. And they ACHIEVED in our focus area (writing). Not that they achieved higher than normal by the end of the year... it was that MOST of them hit the higher level! It wasn't just that one group of high achievers.... most of them became high achievers! Even the tricky lower group I had with ESL and special needs kiddos hit the benchmark. And because they got to have input and were in control of their own learning, virtually EVERY kid was engaged for EVERY lesson. Even though we focused on writing, it spilled over into everything else. You can't really ask for more than that!

But I got more than that! I actually had to ditch my behaviour management/reward system half way through because it became useless. The kids didn't care about the rewards, and I wasn't managing any behaviour. It evaporated. By the end, all they cared about was showing off what they had done, some hugs, and encouraging each other to be excellent! They made goals and analysed their own and each other's work to identify things to improve- part of being excellent is always improving!

One of the focuses we had was growth mindset. We had some Nervous Nelly's in our classes, some who were too scared to pick up a pencil and try to write because they might make a mistake.
The change in their thinking, largely, is so much better. It's hard to imagine some of these kids have grown so much in six months! One of the best resources we had was Class Dojo's Big Ideas videos. They not only have the cutest videos but each one comes with notes and questions to discuss after.

We used the content from these videos to unpack stories we read in class from different perspectives. It was amazing to see them pulling apart the characters in popular stories- people we normally remember as the good guys- and identifying their thinking and what they could have done differently. It was certainly educational for me!  Eventually, we worked up to re-enacting situations that happened on the playground and analysing those. It was pretty amazing.

One girl, such a beautiful young lady, had difficulty with the monkey bars. She just couldn't get across. She comes from a background typically known for their bulky build, and she was already very tall compared to the other kids. She didn't have the upper body strength to haul herself across, often only making it half way. After we started looking at growth mindsets, I noticed that many of the kids would encourage her to keep trying and not give up when she fell down. She practiced every day. Then one day, it happened. She finally made it. The most amazing thing happened afterwards.

The other kids stopped what they were doing.

They clapped and cheered for her!
It was incredible to see.

One of my class parents (who also works at school) popped in on Thursday (we ninja our calendar so that the kids finish on Wednesday, and then we have Thursday to clean. Friday we have breakfast together as a staff breakup). She took some pictures of my room to show her daughter how different it looks. One of those pictures appeared on the front of my Christmas card she gave me the next day. She reminded me that my classroom is in fact, an empty room. It's the sacrifice, the people, love and life brought into the empty room that creates the environment we cherish as a place of learning, love and laughter throughout the year.

Picture is blurry, sorry. It's a photo of a photo. And lets be honest, I'm not much of a photographer... yet! And yes.. that's me in the corner.
 Now we are here in our ridiculously hot and humid summer, Christmas around the corner and then a whole new group of little munchkins to fall in love with all over again. After meeting these guys at our transition morning, I can honestly say we are going to be having class outside as much as possible (meaning when it isn't a million degrees outside). Those guys are ACTIVE!!

Which is great! It means I not only get to start using some of the stuff we worked on during the project right from day 1, it also means that I have to get out of my box and try something a little bit more challenging! I'm so looking forward to next year!

Speaking of next year... I've been hiding some pretty BIG news for awhile.
Because if I mentioned it back in June when we made the decision we would have sounded crazy about planning something so far in advance!

We are going to Disneyworld for Christmas 2017! Sult
It may seem like not much to you guys from the US, but to take my family from Australia to Orlando for two weeks over Christmas/New Years is costing about as much as a house deposit... the airfares alone are around $10K, and the amount of planning and research I'm having to do is incredible!  But so worth it for a once in a lifetime trip.

I have to plan where I want to eat dinner more than 6 months in advance so I can make reservations!? There is so much to a Disney holiday, especially when you consider we don't have anything Disney anywhere near here and don't know the rides, the events.. nothing! I didn't even realise there were so many theme parks in the one spot. And then I have to make reservations for the rides we want to do 2 months before we go?

There are also a LOT of people who go way overboard about the mouse stuff (a lot of kids here don't even know who that is, so it seems very weird!) and have full on planning binders!
I can kinda understand why you would want a binder to keep all the info together though- there's so much involved! Surely it must get easier once you've been once or twice though?

So.. what would your Disney bucket list be for first timers likely to never return?
What's with the obsession with character meetings? Is there something I'm missing?
What are your favourite events? We're looking forward to the Candlelight Processional.
And most valuably, any tips for surviving the (in)famous Christmas crowds?
I would LOVE to hear your expert thoughts!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

One more step down the road ahead......Still alive!


Well... it's been a whole term since I was last here.... sad, sad, sad. I will endeavour to do better!

To celebrate making it to school holidays, I have joined Kelly and Kim's linky party with a sale in my TPT store until 3rd July. Everything is 20% off! Starting right NOW!!

What a perfect opportunity to get one of my wonderful take-control-of-your-life-again teaching/home/life organisational binders! Change your life! Take your time back for yourself and your family!

Our Easter trip was A-MAZ-ING.

The kids absolutely loved it, and we didn't have a single argument.
Drove through a storm the first night and had no place to stop, which caused us to end up a full day ahead of schedule.
My husband even lost his phone on the first day, and even that couldn't stop him from completely loving the trip.
Camping was colder than anticipated.
Made it back home in record time. Instead of taking 3-4 days, we left Monday morning and arrived back on Tuesday night. 36 hours without a stop. Lots of caffeine was consumed. Many songs were sung. Loudly. Poorly. With great enthusiasm.

It's my favourite family holiday so far!

This term, we have had a lot of events. Probably the biggest one was our school fair. Talk about huge! Lots of pictures were taken, but none by me. We did get to wear really cute 50's style ice cream parlour aprons and hats though. So cute. Our class' stall was decorating ice cream cups or cupcakes. And then eating them. Because who wants to have cake if they can't eat it! That saying has never made sense to me. Of course I want to eat the cake. What else is the point of having cake if it isn't to be eaten!?

Our class also created an art gallery this term, and invited their parents. I had a completely awesome prac student (final prac!) who organised the kids to do little jobs to get ready for the art gallery. We did have a late night hanging it all up, but it was worthwhile to see the kids telling their parents all about it!  Here are some pictures!

This is a blurry, not-so-great picture of our 10 apples up on top bookmarks. Not sure where I saw these, but the kids fingerprinted 10 apples on top of an animal.

These are our scratch art pictures. We covered a blank page with colourful oil pastels, then painted black over the top. We then used toothpicks to scratch our pictures on them. I love how the colours just POP when they are laminated!

These are good old-fashioned marble paintings. We actually use the lid off the A4 paper boxes. They are quite literally the perfect size :)

Our starry night inspired pictures. Some looked kind of like the original, some took their own ideas and made a completely different kind of scenery. They turned out so gorgeous! My absolute favourite is the red one on the right hand side, third from the top.

These are family portraits. We actually did these right at the beginning of the year, but kept them hidden away until now :) They drew their families just in pencil, then went over it in a plain wash. We were supposed to use different colours to do clothes etc. but my instructions were a little lacking that day. We then went over the pencil lines with black texta. My family is even on there!

These are shape pictures. They were 'supposed' to use 10 shapes to create a picture. We had just been learning about the 3 little pigs, so we got lots of houses. And lots more than 10 shapes!
These are basic butterfly pictures we made while experimenting with colour mixing.
These are really amazing. When they are hung properly! They are butterfly paintings of the students names. If you turn them sideways (so you can't read the names!) they look like really cool aliens! Just look sideways at the screen and try not to see letters :)
These are paintings done while listening to Peter and the Wolf
These are plain canvas boards. They were 'supposed' to put 10 pieces of plain masking tape on the board and paint over it. They still turned out amazing. I displayed them on a bookshelf I had turned into a sorting board/feltboard. It's main function is to hide the mess on my desk from anyone who comes in. Yep, my desk is right behind it!
Scribble pictures! I know these have another more technical name, but we just call them scribble pictures. lots of fun to do!

Gingerbread men decorations. Again, use *10* things to decorate! I love Afro gingy!


And we actually ran out of room to put up our fingerprint garden pictures of plants and insects. Again, *10* fingerprints... except, not really.

So, that was our art gallery!

And then to think I had report cards all to be done at the same time! No wonder I haven't had time to blog!

We are moving through the year so quickly! I can't believe it is already the end of June! That's the halfway point in the school year for those of us in Australia. 19 more school weeks and we'll be handing our munchkins on to Year 1. So much to do, not nearly enough time to do it all in.

One of my goals from New Years Eve was to identify an area of weakness in my class to work on this year, and report back to you all about it. Getting it in by the deadline! I have two days left! This year I have noticed many children in my class seem to suffer anxiety, and much of that anxiety is connected to perfectionism and a lack of resilience. Of course, there are always going to be kids like this, but I have seen an increase in my classroom over the past few years, and this year has increased even moreso. I don't know if it's something just in my demographic or a 'thing' that's happening with kids now. 

A perfect opportunity came up at the end of May- our school has signed up for an action research project with a university (which will later report our findings to the government) working with age appropriate pedagogies. I won't get too much into all of that amazing stuff in this post, but the project is allowing us to target those anxious kiddos, focussing on growth mindsets! There's other aspects as well, such as following child interests and giving them some choice in their learning...So very excited to get back in next term and see how it works out!

We have previously talked a little bit about growth mindset (using the first set of the amazing ClassDojo videos), talking about the brain a little bit (MindUp), and even making clay brains with pipe cleaners stuck in them to show all the connections. The kids loved it, and I am really looking forward to going into it more deeply with them!

What are your favourite hands-on growth mindset activities!!

Friday, 25 March 2016

Heeeeeeeere we go!

Tomorrow is the big day. Our little family set out on our adventure.
Almost everyone we know thinks we are insane driving so far, and with kids!
We are totally looking forward to it.

My house is currently covered in... well, everything.
My packing schedule wasn't strictly adhered to.
Things that were 'packed' (read that as thought about, partially set aside and then forgotten about) have gone missing (usually put back where they belong, fancy that!) and the result is a half-packed bunch of stuff, masses of mess and laundry, as well as random things that have been pulled out to access other stuff not yet being put away.

The family was informed we will NOT be leaving until the house resembles my neat and tidy home again.

Onto something totally different, Happy Easter.
I hope everyone safely enjoyed their Good Friday.

I am so grateful that Jesus died for me.
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